Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)
Similar to the Grand Royal Palace, on whose grounds it is situated, the splendid Temple of the Emerald Buddha is one of the most visited places in Bangkok. This amazing construction, which stands to the north of the royal residence, simultaneously holds two titles: the main Buddhist temple of Thailand (and country’s most sacred place) and the most popular tourist attraction in its capital.
It was built in the late 18th century, intended to store the most revered Thai shrine – the statue of the Emerald Buddha - whom King Rama I worshiped. The 66 centimeter sculpture was supposedly created in the 15th century, yet no one knew its value for a long time because, according to legend, it was covered with protective layer of plaster, making it unremarkable to the casual observer at lease. Once, a piece of stucco broke off the figure and a green stone became visible under it. This was assumed to be an emerald and the statue was therefore called the Emerald Buddha, yet in fact it is made of Jadeite – a natural, green-colored mineral.
The statue repeatedly changed owners and locations for many years. It was moved from country to country and passed from one ruler to another, who strived to possess it, certain that it would attract good luck and strengthen their power. Soon, this amazingly beautiful statue became property of the King of Thailand, Rama I, and later the absolute symbol of royal power, as only the monarch is allowed to touch the shrine. It is one of his tasks is to dress the statue each season as while in the summer season, the Emerald Buddha wears a golden tunic adorned with gems, in the rainy season he is dressed in a golden cloak and in the cool season he wears a golden, enameled dress.
The temple, where the relict is kept, is also delightful in its appearance. The surrounding covered colonnade is adorned with scenes from Ramakien – the Thai analogue of the famous Indian epic, which is well-known in all of the neighboring countries with minimal changes to the narrative. The temple’s ceiling and walls are painted with amazing pictures, depicting Buddha’s journey through life. Its entrance is guarded by two bronze lions, which were brought by the King Rama I from Cambodia, as well as by statues of two fierce demons. In addition to these decorations, a royal pantheon, where the life-size statues of eight Thai monarchs have been erected, is situated on the premises of the temple.
Important! Visitors in shorts, short skirts and shirts with open shoulders will not be allowed into the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. There is a clothes renting station for those whose appearance doesn’t meet the requirements at the entrance.
Getting there. Get to the metro station Saphan Taksin and then walk to the Sathorn pier. Take a cutter (departures are every 20 minutes) from there to the Tha Chang pier, which situated near the Grand Royal Palace.